“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that President Robert Kocharian told the Orinats Yerkir and Dashnaktsutyun parties, the junior partners in the governing coalition, late Saturday to “stop their inappropriate populism and get down to serious business.” The paper says the stern rebuke came at an emergency meeting between Kocharian and leaders of the three governing parties. “Kocharian advised [Orinats Yerkir] leader Artur Baghdasarian to follow his faction members’ speeches during the budgetary discussions that, according to the president, contain nothing but populism.”
“Ayb-Fe” contends that Armenian politicians and government officials increasingly evoke patriotism just as they become even more deeply mired in deceit and corruption. “An Armenian official can for hours talk about patriotism and shamelessly plunder their own people. An Armenian parliamentarian can trumpet about honesty and patriotism and at the same time deceive and humiliate their own people with vote bribes,” the paper writes. “And the more our opposition and pro-government politicians speak of patriotism, the more convinced we are that patriotism is the best means of business in Armenia. More surprising is the fact that a part of the people continues to believe them. There is probably nothing else it can do.”
In an interview with “Hayots Ashkhar,” a parliament deputy from the Republican Party of Armenia, Hermine Naghdalian, defends government efforts to toughen penalties for corporate tax evasion. She argues that a large part of the Armenian economy is dominated by business clans that routinely flout the law to make “hyper-profits.” She says the proposed measures will primarily target big business as “there is little to be gained from small and medium-sized business.” “They already give everything they can [to the state budget]. Even more than that,” she says.
“Iravunk” reports that rival government factions in Armenia used last week’s budget debates in the National Assembly to “sting each other under the table.” The next such opportunity will come only during the parliament’s spring session. “The vote on the [government’s] tax package will show how successful the Republican Party and Andranik Markarian are in controlling the situation in the parliament,” the paper says.
Ara Sahakian, who had long served as parliament vice-speaker under former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, believes that the National Assembly is now nothing but a “tool for protecting business interests of various clans.” He tells “Aravot” that the numerous businessmen who currently hold legislative seats only care about ensuring privileged conditions for their firms.
“Aravot” comments in this regard that although a recently passed Armenian law banned televised advertising of alcohol, local TV channels continue to air commercials promoting different vodka brands.
Some newspapers report that Dashnaktsutyun has set up a TV company to thwart the closed A1+ channel’s return to air. The company will take part in the upcoming tender for broadcasting frequencies. Its director assures “Aravot,” though, that it is not controlled by the nationalist party. But A1+ boss Mesrop Movsesian claims the opposite in “Ayb-Fe.” “We already know why such channels are needed: for active money laundering through lotteries and bogus shows,” Movsesian says. “Parties need that for bolstering their propaganda work.”